72 years ago today, on Saturday, August 26, 1939, the first televised Major League Baseball game in history was broadcast. In fact the first TWO major league games were televised, as it was a doubleheader* between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds.
Legendary broadcaster Red Barber was the announcer for the games, which were seen on W2XBS, the station now known as WNBC in New York City. Just 3 months earlier the same station televised the first baseball game of any kind — a college game between Princeton and Columbia Universities.
The teams split the doubleheader at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field, with Cincinnati winning the first game 5-2 and the Dodgers winning the second, 6-1.
Apparently, only two cameras were used, but there are differing reports on what they showed. It’s agreed that one was stationed behind home plate – some say it was from a high angle to show a wide shot of the field. The second camera may have been near the third base line to show throws to first base… or the second camera may have been on announcer Red Barber himself. Either way, to make the historic day even harder, Barber had no monitor and couldn’t see what the viewers were seeing.
It must have been a success because today Major League Baseball is practically run by television; the length of breaks between innings is dictated by TV commercials and all World Series games are at night.
*Doubleheader: A doubleheader was when two baseball teams played two games in one day, with fans paying just a single admission to see both games. It was once a common occurrence until major league baseball realized they were not maximizing their revenue. Now, on the rare occasion of a doubleheader, the stadium is cleared and a second admission is charged.